Photo Intern: Graham Robson Gwinnett Braves' Jose Constanza connects to center field during the first inning of Wednesday's game against the Indianapolis Indians.
LAWRENCEVILLE — Flaps up, Felix Pie did a joyous imitation of an airplane soaring around the infield as he tried to avoid the mayhem to come. Of course, he couldn’t.
“Jose Constanza caught me,” Pie said, breaking into a big smile in the Gwinnett clubhouse afterwards.
The G-Braves right fielder had survived the dog pile that followed his walk-off heroics. So had the teammates that jumped on him.
If ever there was a time to celebrate, this was it. Gwinnett’s oh-so-long losing streak was finally over at 15 games and the end came in dramatic fashion on Sunday at scorching-hot Coolray Field.
Pie’s single capped a two-run rally in the ninth inning and gave the G-Braves a 6-5 victory that put an end to more than two weeks of misery.
“It feels absolutely wonderful,” manager Dave Brundage said. “It’s a great way to win and a great way to end the streak.”
Still, Brundage wasn’t part of the celebratory dog pile. He just watched it in relief.
“We’re exhausted,” he said. “It can take a toll on you. I feels like I’ve lost 100 pounds.”
Until the ninth-inning rally, it appeared that the G-Braves were headed for another disheartening loss. Charlotte had hit three home runs, one after a two-out error.
But Luis Durango just beat out a leadoff drag bunt in the ninth against Knights closer Donnie Veal and Constanza laid down a sacrifice bunt. Tyler Pastornicky, who had made the costly throwing error earlier, doubled to tie the game, the ball just eluding diving center fielder Justin Greene.
That brought up Pie, who had already extended his hitting streak to 14 games — tying the G-Braves record. The left-handed hitter came through facing the lefty Veal, lining a single to right field. Kyle Shelton couldn’t come up with the ball cleanly to make a throw, but with the speedy Pastornicky running it didn’t matter anyway.
“It’s a feeling you can’t explain,” said of his hit and the resulting celebration. “I’m glad I got the hit and the RBI. … It’s been hard. … But that thing is over.”
The G-Braves had eight victories in their last at-bat while holding down first place in the International League’s South Division for nearly two months. But they had been in a free fall since.
“We’ve gone through an awful lot, but they never quit,” Brundage said. “I’m proud of the ball club.”
Pie, a former major leaguer signed out of the independent Atlantic League, held up his end throughout the bad times, so it was only fitting that he played an important role in the streak breaker. He also drove in Gwinnett’s first inning run with a double.
“I feel comfortable at the plate, so hopefully I can keep the swing and help my team win more ballgames,” Pie said.
Constanza also played an important role in ending the streak. He had his fourth straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-2 with two walks and scoring three times.
But until the ninth inning, it looked like Charlotte’s power outburst would extend the G-Braves’ losing streak.
Gwinnett starter Todd Redmond gave up three homers in 5 2/3 innings, with two of the five runs against him unearned. Dan Johnson, who has 20 homers, hit a two-run blast in the first inning and Kyle Shelton connected for the first time in the fourth after Pastornicky’s two-out throwing error.
The G-Braves tied it in the fifth inning, but Charlotte got the lead back in the sixth when Dallas McPherson smashed a mammoth leadoff homer that hit more than half way up the batting eye in center field.
Thanks to the ninth-inning comeback, reliever Buddy Carlyle (4-2) got the victory with two scoreless innings. The blown save was Veal’s first and he fell to 3-2 with the loss.
Phillip Humber, who pitched a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox at Seattle on April 21 at Seattle, started for the Knights on a rehab assignment. He worked 2 1/3 innings and was charged with two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out three.
The temperature was 105 degrees at first pitch on Sunday, topping the 101 at Saturday night’s start.
Having lost 15 in a row, the G-Braves were feeling the heat in more ways than one. Now at least they have the losing streak on ice.